Ralls County sheriff accused of misconduct, retaliation in civil lawsuit filed by former deputy

Collage Maker-23-Feb-2023-12.55-AM

Mark Braden, left, and Brad Stinson

NEW LONDON, Mo. — Ralls County is the defendant in a civil lawsuit in which a former deputy in the sheriff’s department alleges Ralls County Sheriff Brad Stinson made inappropriate sexual advances toward a female lieutenant, then retaliating against the deputy who attempted to report it.

The suit was filed Feb. 20 by Mark Braden, a former lieutenant in the Ralls County Sheriff’s Department. He alleges Stinson “made inappropriate sexual advances toward, and otherwise harassed and discriminated against his subordinate …”

Stinson said he could not comment about the pending litigation.

“I will only say Braden must be hurting very badly to make such an attack. I pray for his well-being and that he finds peace,” Stinson said in a text.

Braden, who shared an office space with the female lieutenant, noted what he believed was Stinson’s preferential behavior toward her such as refueling and washing her patrol car without doing it for other employees. Braden also noticed physical advances toward the female lieutenant, such as touching her shoulder and putting his arm around her. Stinson allegedly requested she stay after hours “when there was no legitimate operational need so he could flirt with her.”

Braden said Stinson asked him to leave the office to be alone with the lieutenant. He claims Stinson admitted his desire for a sexual relationship with her on one occasion.

The petition states the female lieutenant rejected Stinson’s advances. 

Braden reported his observations and other information about sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation by Stinson to Ralls County Sheriff’s Department Maj. Chris Flynn on Feb. 17, 2022. The petition states that after Braden made this report, “Stinson’s demeanor toward Mr. Braden turned cold and stern.”

The petition claims Stinson told Braden to forget about the whole situation and to ignore what he had heard. It also alleges Stinson told Braden he could not believe he wanted to throw away his career like this and told him to “keep his mouth shut.”

Braden was transferred on March 7, 2022, from his assignment as a criminal investigator to an assignment on night shift in uniformed patrol. Three days later, Braden reported his observations and other information about sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation by Stinson to the Ralls County Commission. He made another report on March 15 and March 24, 2022 to the president of a local lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.

The petition claims Ralls County brought in outside personnel to investigate allegations against Stinson, which Braden assisted and participated in. 

The petition states “Braden was subjected to increased scrutiny (and specifically targeted for investigation and discipline) because he reported the sexual harassment he had witnessed; because he filed a complaint; because he opposed discriminatory practices; because he participated in the investigation; and because he was associated (with the female lieutenant).”

The petition states Braden met March 29, 2022 with the outside investigator providing information relevant to the case. Two days later, Braden’s immediate supervisor was told by Stinson to issue Braden a written reprimand for leaving Ralls County limits 10 minutes before the end of his shift. Braden claims he did not leave early. 

Braden was placed on administrative leave on April 4, 2022. He says he was notified he was the subject of an administrative investigation to determine whether he violated policy and if he should receive disciplinary action.

Braden filed a charge of discrimination on May 4, 2022, with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights related to discrimination and retaliation.

Braden was directed by Flynn to report to the Ralls County Sheriff’s Department. He was questioned by Flynn and Sgt. Josh Baker regarding the investigation. Braden said he declined to answer questions without an attorney present.

The petition claims Braden sent an email on May 5, 2022 to Flynn providing several times on May 5-6 when he would be available to answer questions with an attorney present. Braden claims he confirmed with Flynn the email was received.

Braden was ordered to report to work at the Ralls County Sheriff’s Department at 3 p.m. May 6, 2022, and was again questioned by Flynn and Stinson regarding the investigation. Braden claims he again declined to answer questions without an attorney present.

Braden was fired on May 6, 2022. A termination notice states Braden was fired due to “the result of an internal affairs investigation which found that you have violated several policies and general orders of our office.”

Braden claims he received a letter on May 17 explaining that reasons for his termination were insubordination or failing to cooperate with an employment investigation upon direct order of the sheriff and leaving the county during his work hours before his shift was over.

Braden is suing for $25,000 for lost wages, benefits, emotional distress and injury to his reputation. He claims the actions of the Ralls County Sheriff’s Department violated several provisions of the Missouri Human Rights Act, the “State Whistleblower Protection Act” and the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.

Braden also has requested reinstatement as a Ralls County deputy with restitution of all pay and benefits from May 6, 2022 until the time of reinstatement.

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